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Crystal Echo Hawk, Michael Johnson will co-lead the national Native social justice organization through the next phase of expansion and growth with Angel Charley as the Executive Director of the nonprofit programming

The organization ecosystem will encompass IllumiNative, INC., a 501(c)(3) non-profit and IllumiNative Media, LLC (a wholly owned subsidiary of IllumiNative, INC.)

Boulder, Colorado (June 4, 2024) – IllumiNative, the Native woman-led racial and social justice organization dedicated to building power for Native peoples to advance justice, equity, and self-determination, announced today a visionary executive team to lead the organization in its next phase of expansion and growth, which includes oversight of the non-profit organization, IllumiNative, INC., as well as IllumiNative Media, LLC, a brand new media and production company. With an unwavering commitment to amplifying Native voices and narratives, IllumiNative introduced Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee) as Founder and CEO, Michael Johnson (Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota) as President, and Angel Charley (Laguna, Zuni, Navajo) as the organization’s inaugural Executive Director. Jennifer Van der Heide has also joined the team to lead a newly established department as Vice President of Advocacy and Engagement. 

(l-r) Crystal Echo Hawk, Michael Johnson, Angel Charley, Jennifer Van der Heide

IllumiNative, INC. was granted 501(c)(3) status by the IRS in late 2023, and the new structure of self-governance, co-management and leadership will continue to focus on research, narrative change, and capacity building to strengthen Native power. As part of IllumiNative’s commitment to creating space for Native voices in mainstream media, the organization is also introducing IllumiNative Media, LLC, reflecting a pivotal step towards increased representation and authentic storytelling in front of and behind the camera. 

“When I started this organization in 2018 I had no idea where it would take me, but the growth and impact we’ve achieved in the last five years has surpassed my wildest expectations,” said Crystal Echo Hawk, Founder and CEO of IllumiNative. “The creation of IllumiNative Media is a huge step for our organization and the future of Native representation, and will allow us to invest in and support Native creatives both in front of and behind the screen to raise cultural awareness and promote authentic Native storytelling. As we enter this next transformative phase, I am honored to be working alongside our exceptional leadership team and board to continue to build power for Native peoples and shape a future where our narratives are heard, respected, and celebrated. I could not be more proud of the organization’s growth, and I am so excited for this next stage of expansion – we have some really exciting projects and initiatives ahead of us.”

“I am honored to join Crystal and the talented IllumiNative team as President as we embark on this journey of community directed radical movement building and the acknowledgement and celebration of self determination to increase the visibility of Native peoples,” said Michael Johnson, President of IllumiNative. “Research is IllumiNative’s DNA – it’s what the organization was founded on in 2018 and it continues to be the driving force behind our ability to create change and respond to the evolving needs of our communities, which is why we’ll be releasing brand new research this year to guide our vision for the future of our organization and the fight to build power for Native peoples.”

“I have deeply admired IllumiNative as an organization that stands at the forefront of advancing Native voices and narratives, and I am excited to step into the role of Executive Director to continue stewarding our mission,” said Angel Charley, Executive Director of IllumiNative. “I’m honored to be working alongside Crystal, Michael, and the rest of the team in this distributed co-leadership structure that will expand our potential to show up as leaders in our communities. I look forward to working together with our dedicated team and partners to elevate Native voices and catalyze positive change on a national scale.”

IllumiNative is also proud to announce the first Board of Directors that will play a crucial role in guiding IllumiNative’s strategic direction and ensuring the organization’s continued success. Holly Cook Macarro (Red Lake Band of Ojibwe), Principal at The Angle, serves as Chair and Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee Nation), Playwright and Legal Counsel to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, serves as Vice Chair. Cheryl Crazy Bull (Sicangu Lakota), President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, serves as Treasurer, and Wayne L. Ducheneaux II (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe), Chief Advancement Officer at Intertribal Agriculture Council, serves as Secretary. Members at Large on the Board of Directors include Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache), Executive Producer, Cloud Woman Media, Kathy Baird (Sicangu Lakota / Oneida Nation of Wisconsin), Chief Communications Officer of The Washington Post, Tilane Jones, President of ARRAY, and Anna McMurphy, Chief People Officer of MNTN. The Board of Directors will oversee IllumiNative’s growth and expansion in partnership with the founder and CEO, Crystal Echo Hawk and President Michael Johnson.


About IllumiNative

IllumiNative is a Native woman-led racial and social justice organization dedicated to increasing the visibility of—and challenging the narrative about—Native peoples. Our mission is to build power for Native peoples by amplifying contemporary Native voices, stories, and issues to advance justice, equity, and self-determination. We envision a future where the self-determination and sovereignty of Native peoples is respected and supported; where our children see themselves reflected in the world around them; and where Native peoples author and drive our own narrative.